Response to Property24.co.za
by Ndivhuwo Mabaya
Paddy Hartdegen, whose column on Property24 is also popular on zasucks.com and boerevryheid.com, commits the cardinal sin for a columnist of confusing opinion and fact.
While our Constitution guarantees Mr Hartdegen’s right to express his opinions – however jaundiced – he, and Property24, have no right to publish lies and distortions as fact to fit his opinions.
The column published on 3 February 2010 – “Everyone can learn from Tokyo” – is slanderous of Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu, formerly the Minister of Housing.
The point at which Mr Hartdegen’s opinions cross into the realm of slander is a matter best determined by lawyers. However, the publication of misrepresentations of fact concerning Ms Sisulu’s tenure as Minister of Housing requires public redress.
The facts, a matter of public record, are:
• Hartdegen asserts that 40 000 poorly-built homes RDP homes identified as requiring rectification or reconstruction were built during Ms Sisulu’s tenure as Minister of Housing. In fact, these homes were built between 1999 and 2003, most of them by relatively small building contractors after an exodus from low-cost housing by bigger construction companies.
• Hartdegen presents the discovery of the 40 000 poorly built homes as a recent development, following Ms Sisulu’s departure from the Ministry of Housing. In fact, these homes were identified as requiring attention in the 10-Year review of government published in 2004. These homes were the reason for the introduction of a rectification programme by Minister Sisulu, which was adopted as government policy and implemented countrywide by 2007. This is an ongoing programme.
• Hartdegen asserts that Minister Sisulu could have saved Billions of Rands had she taken steps to eradicate corruption in the housing sector, such as appointing Advocate Willie Hofmeyr and the Special Investigation Unit. Ms Sisulu in fact appointed Hofmeyr and the ISU in 2006. The initial findings of the ISU investigation, exposing thousands of corrupt officials and approved by the auditor general, were announced in March 2009.
The fact is that Hartdegen’s bile should not be allowed to spew into the domain of revisionist history. Those acquainted with the machinations of government housing delivery take great pride in the record in the Department of Housing under Minister Sisulu.
Her team, upon review of RDP housing, authored a new human settlements policy. Under her direction, 1.5 million new homes were constructed, new-specification two-bedroom homes were developed, and prototype human settlements were delivered.
Hartdegen, who is perhaps best known for his book, Rhodesia, should stick to subjects he knows. Property24 should not allow its desire to develop a so-called “controversial” columnist to subvert its responsibility to publish the truth.
Spokesperson: Dr Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans